Our conservation team along with external assistance, have completed a successful conservation project on this portrait of Jean Batten. Conservation Manager, Kristie Short-Traxler, walks us through the steps carried out during this project.
The portrait was unframed and recto (front) and verso (back) examined for condition and signatures. This allowed us to see that the original canvas support has been trimmed and the verso lined with a thick application of wax. In addition, the examination revealed evidence of a tear across the centre of the canvas that has been repaired at some point in the history of the painting.
Treatment of the portrait was outsourced to an external contractor found through the New Zealand Conservators of Cultural Materials Pū manaaki kahurangi (NZCCM) which is the professional association of conservators of cultural property in Aotearoa. The original varnish was removed as it was discoloured, holding surface dirt, unevenly applied, and very glossy. Areas of a previous repair were identified along with historic paint retouching which was removed or updated. Finally, the surface was revarnished with a matt varnish and microcrystalline wax mixture. The result is a significant reduction in discolouration, brightening of the paint colours, and a gloss reduction.
In addition to the conservation treatment, finding the right frame is equally important for long term preservation. The framing solution chosen serves three goals: to give a protective microclimate to the painting for storage and display; to provide an easy “store to wall” drop-out framing solution and to provide a complimentary display aesthetic referencing the colours in the work itself.
The portrait is now on display in the Walsh Memorial Library at MOTAT.
Short-Traxler, Kristie. The Process Behind the Jean Batten Portrait Conservation MOTAT Museum of Transport and Technology. First published: 24 August 2021. URL www.motat.nz/collections-and-stories/stories/the-process-behind-the-jean-batten-portrait-conservation